Carrie Anne Stephenson and the Newsload met with famed founder of Yuk Yuk's Comedy Clubs, Mark Breslin in his Toronto office. In a wide ranging interview they discussed everything from how Mark discovered Jim Carrey, to the power comedy has, or doesn't have, to impact politics.
This Newsload Editor's Edition focuses on the business of comedy, censorship, laughter as therapy, the rise of social media & can comedy impact politics.
The main report discusses discovering Jim Carrey & Howie Mandal, growing up in a strip club, wild gags from the early days of stand-up, helping friends out of heroin addiction and making a living as a comic.
And sign up to become a Newsload Loadie to see exclusive behind the scenes videos of our Toronto tour and interview.
The Newsload is built on a simple premise: comedy can have a unifying impact on politics. When this part of the discussion came up Mark agreed with some, disagreed with most - but understood all. We can't thank him enough for being so generous with his time and helping to bring, yet another few dreams, ours, closer to reality.
If the Newsload had a spirit animal it would be Mark Breslin.
Carrie Anne asked Mark many of the questions that the Newsload is founded on. The opportunity to get an establishment take on our new approach, from someone who has lived it for the last fifty years, was huge. Mark did not disappoint.
Here is our take on some of his answers.
"This business is very unfair..."
This is true, not just in comedy, but in all creative industries these days. Part of the Newsload promise is to create regional opportunities for local comedians, actors, videographers, directors, picture editors, journalists and print editors, by developing independent franchises all around the world. Few see it yet, but this is just the beginning of a new multi-billion dollar industry that can help fight fear online, turn the tide of division and extremism, even save local journalism.
"The audience censors by not laughing."
This is the lunch-pin premise of the comedy compass. What people laugh at is governed by the zeitgeist of our culture in that moment. If you are the only one in a club laughing at a joke you might wonder why. If you're like me, you'll even do a Google search later to figure out what you missed. In this way, those individual moments, can add up to create social gravity toward political moderation. The Newsload expands on this idea and argues that this effect can be magnified exponentially through social media - just like fear.
Mark did not agree with this. Keep reading to find out why.
The comedy compass predicts political gravity in populations when exposed to large amounts of politically relevant comedy. The larger the data set, the more accurate the compass' predictions.
"Comics... hate hypocrisy..."
Another important aspect of comedy is it shines light on hypocrisy and in politics hypocrisy is everywhere. The comedy compass predicts that, on mass, this will work to filter liars out from truthful people and honest brokers from scam artists. We all admire principled people, whether they are “Liberal” or “Conservative”. What we can’t stand, and must fight at every turn, is the hypocrites of every political stripe. Through comedy truth and principles in messaging is continuously revealed.
Everywhere you look comedy is being used to sell products and services. The Newsload is developing a business model to sell local news and evidence based fact.
"Laughter... is a therapy..."
As many studies have shown laughter is great for our mental health. Comedy is the only forum where new ideas get discussed amongst people with widely varying ideologies. If you laugh, then the underlying truth of the joke may make you doubt your invested position on a topic. Doubt is essential to recognizing complexity. It's our hard-wired preference for black and white answers and this leads to over simplistic and dangerous issue positions. Comedy explores nuance and nuance is the place where lies have the least traction.
Carrie Anne: Fear inspires division. Funny Inspires Unity?
Comedy inspires unity in a way nothing else can. Just like we all generally are afraid of the same things, most of us, no matter what our background, also laugh at the same things. (ie. farts). There is nothing else like it in human intercourse. (hehe, another example.) The Newsload believes that free people around the world have only just scratched the surface of what is possible through comedy. Can comedy be harnessed tactically online, in the same ways trolls have harnessed fear, to make a strategic difference in populations - only to heal and bring people together? The comedy compass argues it can.
Comedy has been directionless at the local level.
"Social media has changed everything in every way."
The story of huge laughter for the woke comic who was then followed by an anti-woke comic, to huge laughs by the same audience, is the point where we respectfully, push back on Mark's response. To be fair, I’ve only internalized this drastic change, brought on by social media, myself, in the last year. Where Mark believes that, if comedy has any impact on politics at all, it is short lived, we believe that the impact comedy can have is dramatic. In the same way social media has changed the amplification potential of fear online, leading to growing rates of polarization and political extremism, it can also be used to change the amplification potential of funny online, for the purpose of truth and moderation.
As trolls and profiteers use fear to draw people into their information silos, convince them that mainstream everything has been feeding them lies their whole lives and only they, and those they say, should be trusted, so too can funny be used to open up conversations, to open minds and get people talking. As fear is used to incrementally divide online, so too can funny be used, to bring people together.
A concerted effort to utilize comedy strategically, through free expression, to open up politics and minds, has never been tried.
The Newsload is a cheap franchise, run by locals, doing local comedy, tied to local sensibilities and local news, that can hold local attention better than fear, get clicks better than fear, and open minds, not wall them off.
This is the Newsload promise and potential. Thank you for reading.